“Time Enough,” Monique Prieto’s 12th solo show in Los Angeles, is nothing — and everything — like her previous exhibitions. It’s Prieto at her best, surprising viewers (myself included) who thought they knew what she was up to while pushing us out of our comfort zones and into a world of serious curiosity.
In the past, Prieto’s exhibitions have consisted of single bodies of work. At ACME, her wonderfully puzzling exhibition includes at least two, and maybe four, bodies of work.
On the east wall of the first gallery is a salon-style arrangement of eight oils on canvas. Ranging in size from 6 feet by 5 feet to 20 inches by 30 inches, these swiftly painted still lifes are a show unto themselves. Each treats pigment as if it were more valuable than tulip bulbs in 1637. The same goes for sophistication of palette, composition and text. Prieto handles all of these elements as if she had neither the time nor the luxury to make anything pretty.
All the right references are present in these slapdash pictures, including nods to Giorgio Morandi, Georges Braque, Francis Picabia, Marsden Hartley, Mary Heilmann and Lawrence Weiner. But Prieto evokes their trademark styles with such ham-fisted lumpiness you can’t help but think it’s wrongheaded. That’s part of the fun. Her playful paintings make you think for yourself.
In the second gallery, nine similarly sized and slightly larger paintings feature one-, two- and three-word phrases taken from Samuel Pepys' 17th century autobiography. In most, candy-colored rays shine out from Prieto’s Flintstone-style words, cutting across the raw canvas like movie-premiere spotlights. These are the first works in which Prieto quotes herself. Like the ouroboros, it’s a form of self-cannibalization that is illogical yet generative, disquieting yet fertile.
The ink drawings in the third gallery add more loose ends to Prieto’s slippery exhibition. In three, six and 30 parts, they make it hard to distinguish between parts and wholes while suggesting that when it comes to art that’s alive, nothing sits still.
— David Pagel
ACME, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., (323) 857-5942, through Nov. 12. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.acmelosangeles.com
Images: Monique Prieto's "This Is True," 2011, top, and "Against Tomorrow," 2010, bottom. Credit for both: ACME